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South-Central Region



Sunday, October 26, 2003


U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul wolfowitz visits

Fatima al-zahra center for women’s rights


Al Hilla, Babil Province.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz visited the Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women’s Rights on Friday, October 24, 2003.  Earlier in the day, he met with the Polish commander and had lunch with troops from the Multinational Division at Camp Babylon. 

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz spoke to Women’s Rights and Human Rights representatives from Babil, Diwaniyah, Al Kut, and Najaf.  In his remarks, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz said, it is important to “make sure Iraq becomes a free and democratic country.”  He continued by saying it is essential “for all citizens to participate in the political process, and for all citizens to insist that all rights be respected.” 

He complimented the women and men on their efforts, explaining the “most important thing to do is what you are doing – to organize yourselves, because you can change things.” 

About 150 women and men came to hear Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz speak at the Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women’s Rights, which opened on October 1, 2003.  The purpose of the Center is to help widowed, impoverished, and vulnerable women in Babil Province improve their lives and those of their children. 

This Women’s Center is the first to be established since the liberation of Iraq.  It will be open to all women and is not owned or operated by any particular group or individual.  Women who are democratically elected will run the Center.  Activities for the Center include:

  • Women and children’s nutrition and health classes

  • Sewing classes and production of clothes to sell in the local market

  • Cooking classes and work in a catering business

  • Work in the production of small crops and flowers to sell in the local market

  • Literacy programs

  • English classes

  • Internet café to teach typing, computer skills, and internet skills

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) worked with women from all across Babil Province to establish the Center. 

The Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women’s Rights represents another important step forward for democracy and freedom for all Iraqis.


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